Earth Stories: Coloring It In

Once I have all the pieces sorted into bins (in this case, I had 21 of them…I actually had to go buy more), I start ironing Wonder Under onto fabric.

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Each bin has 100 pieces in it, and if I was really organized when I numbered the pieces, it gets ironed together in some logical order, often bottom (base) to top. I try to do all the body pieces together, but it gets problematic, so sometimes I just do all the flesh pieces and then all the inside stuff, like lips and nipples and lungs and uteri.

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This quilt had some weird stuff going on with it though, so the first thing I did was go fabric shopping. I bought the background fabric first (I always do, so I can hold each fabric that touches it up to the background to see if it’s going to work). I also bought a bunch of grays, almost whites, and then a big piece of bright sky blue for…well…the bright sky.

I hang the drawing up in my office, and as you can see, this drawing took over the room. I don’t leave the ironing board there while I’m ironing…but basically, the ironing board is perpendicular to the drawing, so I can just look to the right to see what’s where.

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Here’s ironing the sky…I did that first, because I knew it would be big and I just wanted it out of the way.

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Then how do I pick the colors? Usually I have some idea of the coloring of the quilt in general, mostly the main figure against the background. Because this one was about how the Earth was being damaged, I wanted the Mother Earth figure and all the people in the main part of the quilt to be grayed out. I started with her, making her mostly shades of white to gray, and then the smaller figures in the section were a range of blue-grays, which sit on the blue background. So I really thought this one out. That said, I never sat down with colored pencils or a computer and colored in a drawing. It’s all in my head.

As I iron the pieces to fabric, they all go in a bin.

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Sometimes I have to pull sections out so I can hold them up to something that will be next to them or under them.

While I’m ironing, every fabric I’ve pulled for the quilt ends up piled on the ironing board…which got kinda overcrowded on this quilt.

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That way, I can reuse fabrics throughout the quilt, which gives it a bit more continuity.

These are water fabrics in the base of the quilt, early days in the ironing.

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I started on April 24, 2013, and worked on it a little bit each week until I went on vacation to Oregon with the kids after school got out…and then finished it up before July 4.

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Just like with the most recent one, school nights only yielded an hour or two, if I was being really good. Here are all the rocks in the river bed below the ground.

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And skelly pieces…I always have skelly pieces…

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These are freakin’ tiny, I might add.

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In the end, I used 137 fabrics, most of them grays…

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A serious number of grays…

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It took almost 27 hours to iron all 2000+ pieces down to fabric.

Then I had to cut them all out…to be truthful, I overlapped these two tasks, even taking a bag of pieces to Oregon with me to cut out while playing board games in the evening. Some of the super-tiny pieces stayed on their bigger piece of fabric until they were ready to be ironed down, just to make sure I didn’t lose them…

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It took almost 29 hours to cut them all out…I think part of that was because I WAS doing other stuff while cutting them out, like playing games. But there also a lot of teensy weensy pieces that were just fussy to cut out. I cut pieces out from June 11-July 8. July 8 would have been my 24th wedding anniversary if that marriage had lasted. Yes, I think that every year. I keep thinking I’ll stop, but that’s not how my brain works. It marks events. It runs itself by days when stuff happened…some good, some bad. Then some dates I can’t remember at all.

Once they’re all cut out, I sort them back into the bins by 100s so I can start ironing.

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That task in itself took 2 hours and happened on July 10, when I was the person previously known as Kathy Nida. I’m a different Kathy Nida now. This poor quilt survived my going through all that trauma. This might be one of the reasons I don’t really ever want it back in my house…but maybe I’ll feel differently in a year or two, after it’s traveled.

Next step? Ironing that sucker together…ironing during a Southern California summer…not the best choice of times. But we don’t always have choices.

It’s hard to write about this quilt. I have to go back through blog posts and photos that I don’t want to see, to think about how deep in the hole I was while I was making it. I had hoped that with 10 months gone, it would be easier, and maybe it is a bit, because I am managing to sit here and hold back tears while writing this, but only just. Emotional pain is such a strange beast. It’s so deep inside you, somewhere around where the art resides, quite honestly. They are closely linked and thinking of one evokes the other. I guess that’s a good thing. Hard to say. If I weren’t an artist, would I have bounced back, recovered quicker? Or would it still be me, and I would still be dealing with the pain, just without the added layer, perhaps therapy of the art?

All that probably doesn’t matter. I really was trying to make this a simple report of what happened to create this quilt, but it has so much ironed and stitched into it that it will come out, no matter what my plan once was. A couple more posts and you’ll get to see the final version…

One thought on “Earth Stories: Coloring It In

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